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Schlegel announces retirement as president of Creighton

July 16, 2010

The Rev. John P. Schlegel, S. J., has announced his intention to retire as president of Creighton University as of July 2011.

Fr. Schlegel, who said he had discussed his possible retirement at length with William Fitzgerald, University Board chair, said both he and the University had reached an “appropriate point at which to turn the page to the next chapter.”

Under Fr. Schlegel’s leadership since being named the University’s 23rd president in July 2000, Creighton has raised its national academic standing and expanded its interdisciplinary program offerings, concluded the most successful philanthropic effort in its history, and undertaken a Campus Master Plan that has transformed the University’s living and learning environment while complementing Omaha’s downtown renaissance and urban renewal.

“I told the Board in 1999 that my personal commitment was to serve seven years. I am beginning my eleventh year,” Fr. Schlegel said. “We have achieved a great deal together as a University community over the past 10 years. Given the rapid pace of change in higher education and in the world, it is a good time for a new generation to write the next chapter of Creighton’s history. Now is the right time for me to look beyond my Creighton years and to pursue other transformative opportunities in the Jesuit, Catholic tradition and heritage.”

William Fitzgerald, chairman of the Creighton Board of Directors, said: “Father Schlegel envisioned and implemented the ‘willed future’ for our University, providing essential and forceful direction for the start of the new century. We are grateful for his guidance and celebrate his leadership toward what Creighton has achieved, and what we will continue to achieve.”

Fitzgerald will lead the successor search, details of which will be announced later this month.

In announcing his plans, Fr. Schlegel recalled a theme he cited at his inaugural in 2000, when he quoted philosopher Josiah Royce: “A true community has three aspects: the community that exists through the memory of the founding ideals lived in the present; the community of the present; and the community as it exists in the hopes for the future.”

“The past 10 years have been all about magis,” he said, citing the Latin term referring to the Jesuit philosophy of “doing more” for Christ and for others. “Today, Creighton is teaching more people, generating more new knowledge, and having more positive social and economic impact locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

“That is not just my doing. We who are here today have built on a foundation set by those who came before, and that mission will be taken up by those who follow. I consider myself blessed to have had the opportunity to serve the Creighton community.”

With Fr. Schlegel as president, Creighton emerged from its Midwestern roots to achieve recognition on a national stage:

  • Historic enrollment milestones have been achieved, including: the largest and most academically talented freshman class; unprecedented overall enrollment at 7,400; and soaring demand for graduate and professional programs, drawing record national applicant pools.
  • 14 new endowed faculty chairs and five new endowed professorships have been established.
  • Reaccreditation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association until 2017 was awarded, without reports and without interim visits.
  • 57 new undergraduate and graduate degrees, many focused on interdisciplinary approaches across multiple educational disciplines.
  • Creighton has been named the top master’s university in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report for seven straight years. It is recognized as one of 70 “Schools to Watch” for promise and innovation and continues its ranking as No. 1 in the Midwest as a “best value” for return on tuition investment.
  • Creighton also became the only Catholic and Nebraska university recognized nationally by U.S. News and World Report for faculty-mentored undergraduate research opportunities.
  • The most successful philanthropic effort in the University’s history raised more than $400 million against a $350 million goal, with more than 63,000 donors investing in Creighton – more than half were first-time donors.
  • A nationally recognized Campus Master Plan enlarged Creighton from 90 to 130 acres, furthering the renaissance of downtown Omaha and providing a dynamic 21st century collegiate living and learning environment.

Fr. Schlegel presided over the University’s 125th anniversary celebration in 2004. Among internal improvements, the University stabilized an affiliation agreement for management of Creighton University Medical Center during a time of great uncertainty and fundamental change in the nation’s health care landscape; and created the new position of senior vice president for operations, empowering the president to maintain a greater focus on academics and Catholic identity.

Fr. Schlegel pledged to be “active and engaged” with the affairs of the University until a successor is named. His top priorities over the coming months will be ensuring that the University completes its work on Strategic Program Prioritization, as well as fundraising for student scholarships, faculty support and select capital projects.

Prior to his arrival at Creighton, Fr. Schlegel served 10 years as president of the University of San Francisco, another Jesuit institution. Before that, he was Creighton's assistant academic vice president (1978-82), academic dean of Rockhurst College (1982-84), dean of arts and sciences at Marquette University (1984-88), and executive and academic vice president at John Carroll University (1988-1991).

As a champion of diversity in the workplace, he established, in 2001, what has become an annual citywide diversity summit and CEO breakfast for corporate and not-for-profit organizations in Omaha.

For his promotion of understanding and respect among all races, religions and cultures, he received the Otto Swanson Spirit of Service Award from the National Conference for Community Justice in 2003; the Champion of Greatness Award from Special Olympics Nebraska (2003); the Honored Citizen Award from the Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society (2004); the Award for Vision from Downtown Omaha Inc. (2005); the Distinguished Eagle Scout, the Silver Beaver Award and Citizen of the Year from the Boy Scouts of America (2009); and was named ICAN's (Institute for Career Advancement Needs) Tim Rouse Advocate for Women in Leadership Award winner (2008).

A graduate of St. Louis University with a B.A. in philosophy and classics (1969) and a M.A. in political science (1970), he also earned a theology degree from the University of London (1973) and a doctorate from Oxford University in international relations (1977).

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